Training for Pharmacists to Prescribe Naloxone is Now Available
HARTFORD, September 1 -- On July 15th, 2015, Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed Public Act 15-198, An Act Concerning Substance Abuse and Opioid Overdose Prevention, as part of his administration’s initiative to combat prescription opioid and heroin abuse. A key component of the legislation allows pharmacists who have been trained and certified, to prescribe naloxone (brand name Narcan), an opioid antagonist that blocks opiate receptors in the nervous system and can prevent death from overdose. Today, the Department of Consumer Protection announced that the training pharmacists need in order to become naloxone-certified is available.
While pharmacists have always been allowed to dispense naloxone, upon completion of the two-hour course, they will also be able to prescribe naloxone to patients and caregivers in Connecticut.
“Pharmacists are on the front lines of our health care system, with many opportunities to interact with patients, families and caregivers,” Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan A. Harris said. “To be part of the solution to the opioid epidemic we are facing in Connecticut and throughout the U.S., they must have every resource available, including the information needed to help steer people to addiction treatment. Naloxone is a life-saving drug, but the ultimate goal is not to have it used, but rather to get people into treatment and stop an overdose before it happens.”
The use and abuse of opioid medication has been growing exponentially for more than a decade, with serious effects on the population. Nationally, more than 37% of all drug fatalities in 2013 were opioid related. According to data from the Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, 558 individuals died last year in Connecticut of an overdose caused by either heroin or prescription painkillers. That number grew from 490 in 2013 and 355 in 2012.
However, even with its widespread potential for abuse, not all opioid overdoses are caused by intentional misuse.
“Older adults taking several pain medications from different doctors can fall victim to accidental opioid overdose, as can people experimenting with drugs,” Commissioner Harris said. “Pharmacists are, and should continue to be, a primary source of information for anyone taking opioids to help prevent against accidental misuse.”
The new law does not permit pharmacists to issue a standing order for naloxone. The patient, a caregiver, or loved one must see the pharmacist in person to obtain a prescription and receive their naloxone kit. The prescription will also include complete instructions on its use, as well as best practices on how to handle an overdose situation, along with referral information and resources about local substance abuse treatment, if desired.
The naloxone certification course for pharmacists is an online program, available on the website of the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy (http://pharmacy.uconn.edu/). The Department of Consumer Protection (www.ct.gov/dcp/dcd) and the Connecticut Pharmacy Association (www.ctpharmacists.org) are also posting a link to the pharmacist certification course on their websites.
The course was developed collaboratively by:
o Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, Drug Control Division;
o Connecticut Pharmacists Association;
o Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services;
o University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy;
o University of St Joseph School of Pharmacy;
o Yale New Haven Hospital;
o The Apt Foundation;
o Hartford Hospital;
o Beacon Pharmacy, Bristol;
o The Connecticut Medical Society; and
o Connecticut Commission of Pharmacy
John Gadea, R.Ph, Director of the state’s Drug Control Division, said, “Public Act 15-198 is an important weapon in the ongoing fight against opioid overdose, and one that places a measure of responsibility on pharmacists, who will be providing the prescription and the product to the person, plus information and training on its use. In addition, depending on the individual case, pharmacists will serve as a portal for patients and caregivers into the substance abuse treatment system as needed.”
“We thank Governor Malloy for his dedication and hard work to end the opioid crisis in Connecticut, and we are grateful to our partners for their contributions in developing this critical training so promptly,” Commissioner Harris said. “We hope it will empower pharmacists who prescribe naloxone to make important connections with patients and caregivers, and offer them the pathway to prevention and recovery.”
Responsibility for statewide Drug Control falls under the Department of Consumer Protection. The Drug Control Division works to protect the health and safety of Connecticut residents by regulating all persons and firms involved in the distribution of all legal drugs, medical devices and cosmetics in the state. The Division oversees Connecticut licensing for pharmacies, pharmacists, controlled substance providers and laboratories, pharmacy technicians, and drug manufacturers and wholesalers. It also administers the State’s Prescription Monitoring Program, Medical Marijuana Program, and the medication drop box program. The Board Administrator for the Connecticut Commission of Pharmacy is located in the Department of Consumer Protection.